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Thread: Fight back! www.speedtrap.org

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Fight back! www.speedtrap.org

    Fight back!
    www.speedtrap.org
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    Knowledge is power -- especially when it comes to avoiding speed traps. That's the purpose of www.speedtrap.org -- a web page put together by the National Motorists Association (www.motorists.org) that lists, on a state-by-state basis, notorious speed traps. These are places where "revenue enhancement" is the order of the day -- and local cops lurk behind bushes, waiting to issue unsuspecting (and often out of town) motorists tickets for doing as little as 1 mph over the posted limit (a $67.50 fine in Eolia, Missouri -- one of the small town speed traps listed on the site).

    Many of these towns derive a large chunk of their annual budget from traffic fines alone. For example, tiny Curryville, MO raked in $133,507 from traffic tickets in 2004, half the town's budget.

    Radar-trapping out of towners is big business for some of these localities; in places like Curryville and Eolia, it's fair to say it's the biggest industry in town.

    Though the local constabularies in these towns insist it's all about "safety" -- the rapaciousness of the enforcement suggests otherwise. When a town relies heavily on traffic ticket-generated "revenue" for its operating budget, it's pretty hard to believe the local cops are motivated solely by an over-eager desire to protect the public welfare.

    Another marker of an unjust speed trap is rigid enforcement -- being written up for driving less than 5 mph over the posted limit. Such tickets are often thrown out or dismissed in legitimate courts -- because judges understand that car speedometers
    aren't precisely accurate. A driver can be doing what he thinks is 35 mph, but in fact is driving a couple of mph faster (or slower). Also, inertia sometimes pushes a car slightly faster (as when running downhill). This can happen even with cruise control engaged. This is why, for the most part, cops will leave you alone unless you're doing at least 5-10 mph above the posted maximum -- with "10 over" the unofficial point at which you can expect to receive a ticket.

    But not in a speed trap. Here, Roscoe will issue a piece of paying paper on the slightest pretext. No warnings. No mercy. He knows if you're from out of town, the odds of you coming back to fight the ticket are slim to none.

    And to complement the Gestapo-style enforcement, posted limits in a classic speed trap area are almost always set lower than the prevailing flow of traffic -- enhancing the pool of potential victims. While the local cops will pull out the "safety" card to defend these ultra-low limits (examples include 25 mph on a broad avenue where the traffic flows at 35-40 mph; or a "55 zone" for no apparent reason on a stretch of highway where the speed limit and flow of traffic was previously 65-70, etc.), there's little rhyme or reason behind these claims -- other than the say-so of the local authorities, who seem to have pulled the numbers out of hat.

    A speed survey/evaluation of local traffic patterns as required by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (the "bible" of traffic safety engineering that is supposed to serve as the basis for establishing speed limits and other traffic "controls" ) typically shows that posted limits in a speed trap area are as much as 10-15 mph lower than they ought to be. A correct speed limit, according to MUTCD, is close to the so-called "85th percentile speed" -- that is, within a few mph of the speed at which 85 percent of the traffic is flowing, as observed by a survey of the road/traffic patterns over a period of time.

    But instead of following MUTCD guidelines and posting appropriate limits, deliberately under-posted limits are the rule -- turning reasonable, safe drivers into "speeders" ready to be fleeced. This stacks the decks against drivers -- especially out of town drivers unaware of the presence of the speed trap. They motor along at speeds that seem perfectly reasonable (and were probably perfectly lawful just a mile or so earlier), only to find Roscoe on their tail, lights flashing and sirens wailing.

    Speedtrap.org exists to forewarn motorists -- and forewarned is forearmed.

    Not only can you look up speed traps in your area -- or along the route of a road trip you may be planning -- you can also post the location of speed traps you've discovered yourself, or learned about the hard way. Think of it as the Internet-age equivalent of flashing your headlights for oncoming drivers. The site provides a handy checklist to fill out so that all pertinent info is relayed -- the specific location of the speed trap, the type of road (secondary, highway, etc.) and degree of enforcement activity. You can even enter the exact GPS coordinates of the speed trap.

    The speed traps themselves are listed state-by-state (there are also listings for Canada and the Caribbean). Simply click on your state, then find the county (or city) you're interested in. The listings are very detailed; often, they are contributed by over-the-road truckers and other professional drivers who put down a lot of miles per year and become intimately familiar with the worst speed traps. You can communicate with posters -- and they with you. Comments (pro and con) are welcome with each listing.

    In addition to the actual listings, the site also publishes helpful information on speed limit laws (how they ought to be set vs. how they tend to be set in practice) as well as ticket-fighting strategies in the event you do wind up with a piece of payin' paper.

    As the site grows in popularity and prominence, it is doing a lot more than merely giving ticketed drivers a place to vent (and a way to warn their fellow travelers). National news coverage of "speed trap towns" as listed by speedtrap.org have shamed a few into changing their policies -- and toning down the ticketing. The little town of Eolia, Missouri, for example, was profiled by the Associated Press recently as a notorious speed trap -- and the negative coverage has helped depress local commerce. Being identified as a speed trap causes thru-traffic (and tourists) to avoid the area. In addition to losing out on the traffic ticket "revenue," these areas also lose the business of these drivers, who take their cars (and their dollars) elsewhere.

    Payback isn't hell.

    It's sweet!

    END

  2. #2

    Re: Fight back! www.speedtrap.org

    Around here, downhills are favorite spots for motorcycle cops. Some of the hills are steep enough that you either have to downshift or ride the brakes to avoid exceeding the 45 MPH speed limit (divided 6 lane boulevard). Predictably, they're waiting at the bottom with the laser. And they'll lie their arses off in court.

    Also beware that some laser guns now have digital cameras attached to them to record an image of you along with a date/timestamp and alleged speed.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Fight back! www.speedtrap.org

    It's that kind of stuff that gives cops a bad name - and has helped to create the cynical system we have now - which is more like a banana republic than a country ostensibly run by generally reasonable, objective laws. Somehow, I've avoided a piece of payin' paper for six years now - borderline miraculous given I generally cruise at 80-something on the highway and routinely drop the hammer when on my bike!

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